Hill workouts are the ideal fitness regime to improve speed and strength work. It doesn’t matter if you are an elite player of a masters hockey player looking to enjoy his or her game better You can only benefit from adding hill training to your overall fitness training.
Why Are Hill Workouts so Beneficial?
Running uphill (against gravity) stresses your body in a unique way that you can’t mimic on flat land.
That stress results in some fantastic adaptations and benefits:
- There’s less impact running uphill so it’s easier on your joints and connective tissues
- Hills “force” you to run with better form, reinforcing a more efficient stride
- Running up steep grades builds power more safely than running fast on flat terrain
- Hills provide the most specific strength work runners could ask for
- Hill workouts build strength, speed, endurance, VO2 Max, and every other metric runners care about!
And since they’re so versatile, they can be used at any time during the season – the pre-season the middle competition period, or even late in the season during the taper.
It all depends on how the hill workout is completed.
When Should Hills Be Used In Training?
- Short reps: very helpful workout best done in the mid or later stages of a training cycle.
- Long reps: Best done during the earlier phases of training, but can be done (less effectively) during the middle stages of training.
- Hill sprints: Again best done when you are looking to develop peak performance times.
Hill training – Short Reps
Short hill repetitions are the traditional workout that most of us think of when we envision a hill workout.
They’re usually 60-90 seconds in length with a jog down recovery (you turn around at the end of the rep and run easy down to the bottom before turning around to start again). They’re usually done at about 3k-10k pace on a 4-7% grade hill. In other words, they’re short and fast. They’re a classic VO2 Max workout, helping the body increase its ability to deliver and process oxygen to hard-working
There’s a lot of flexibility in designing short hill rep workouts. Vary the pace, length of rep, and number of reps to suit your needs. These hill workouts are best incorporated into the middle or late stages of a season as you’re focusing more on power and speed.
But of course, like most things in running, there are exceptions. If the reps are shorter, with longer recoveries, they can be used in the early phases of training as a precursor to more challenging workouts.
Hill Training – Long Reps
Long reps of 2-4 minutes. These types of hill workouts can be used for strength-building during the early season phase of training. Because it is slower, this is more aerobic, and therefore it’s best used in the earlier phases of training.
Hill Training – Sprints
Like strides, hill sprints are more like drills that you do after a run. They’re only 8-10 seconds, but these short, max-intensity sprints up the steepest hill you can find pack a powerful punch.
Because the hill is so steep – and the pace is literally as fast as you can go – they recruit as many muscle fibres as possible, helping you:
- Increase stride power
- Engage more muscle fibres
- Improve running economy
- Strengthens muscles and connective tissues (helping with injury prevention)
Note for the recovery: just walking because this is a speed development workout.